Most U.S. homes are not accessible. In fact, 6.8 million households report that at least one of their members as having difficulty navigating their own homes. You or someone you live with may have accessibility needs that aren’t currently being met in your home. You may also want to cater to a wide variety of guests that you welcome into your space.
You can even increase the value of your home and make it more accessible by adding features that improve the energy efficiency of your home, such as in-home smart technology and a new HVAC system. These technological upgrades can also make it easier for those with accessibility needs to navigate your home. Whatever your specific situation may be, there are many home renovation projects that can help you improve the accessibility of your home. Let’s take a look at a few.
1. Switching to Automatic Doors or Lever Door Handles
A variety of accessibility needs include the need for doors to be easier to open. Typically, lever-style door handles are easier to open than doorknobs. These ADA-compliant handles are often used in commercial buildings, but installing them in your home doesn’t mean committing to a cold or industrial look. There are many styles to choose from, and they could add a chic, modern update to your home’s decor along with boosting accessibility.
If you have room in your home renovation budget, you can install doors that open automatically inside your home. This eliminates the need for handles or knobs completely, allowing anyone to pass through the doors with ease.
2. Moving to Open Concepts
Doorways need to be wide enough for wheelchairs and other mobility devices to move through them. This goes for any door in the home, including the shower doors. Creating a wider door for a walk-in shower helps with accessibility tremendously. Luckily, open concepts are popular in home design, so eliminating doors altogether in some spaces could even increase the aesthetic appeal of your home.
Because converting your home into an open floor concept can take time, it’s wise to plan which season you will remodel your home in to ensure the project remains on track. Fall and winter may be ideal times to tackle this large indoor renovation project as contractor costs will most likely be lower during these times. However, you may choose to remodel during a different time of year to ensure that accessibility in your home is not compromised when the weather is colder.
3. Lowering Cabinets, Furniture, and Appliances
Even with increased space to move around safely, some items in your home may be out of reach for people who use wheelchairs or live with other disabilities. It’s wise to lower useful home features, such as appliance switches, kitchen and bathroom cabinets, sinks, and beds. This way, these devices will be able to be accessed by anyone who enters your home. Just make sure that any children or pets cannot tamper with any of these appliances or get into areas that they shouldn’t.
4. Raising the Toilets
Similar to the issue of not being able to reach appliances and other items around the home, you may want to consider raising toilets in the restrooms throughout your home. This way, older adults or people with mobility differences will be able to reach the facilities with ease.
There are several ways to raise a toilet, including installing a toilet riser base, seat raiser or extender, elevated toilet seat chair, toilet frame, or even a mechanical toilet seat lift. The most aesthetic option, however, will most likely be to install a completely new toilet that is taller than your previous model.
5. Investing in Grip Mats and Safety Bars
While making appliances and fixtures safer and more accessible, think about fall risk and anti-slip measures. Safety grab bars are an obvious choice for added insurance against falls. If you’re thinking of hospital-grade bars, you may not immediately want to add these to your home for fear of ruining the look.
However, there are several contemporary grab bar options that work just as well. Find a sleek option that fits your home decor. Then, install them in places like the tub, shower, or toilet area. Grip mats are also fantastic for adding traction to otherwise slippery surfaces like tile, so place them strategically in kitchens and bathrooms. You can even find grip mats that look like rugs but provide the same non-slip perks.
6. Installing Ramps
Stairs are a common hazard for anyone at risk of falling or who needs mobility assistance. Ramps to your front door instead of other stairs around the home could be extremely beneficial. You have several options, including:
- Modular wheelchair ramps;
- Traditional wooden ramps;
- Concrete ramps;
- Portable ramps.
You can also start adding smaller ramps inside such as threshold ramps.
7. Adding Railings or a Stairlift
Railings can be a beautiful addition to your home while aiding in accessibility. While they don’t solve the issue of stairs, they can add extra support if built well. Pick a stair rail option that is visually appealing but sturdy and easy to grab onto.
If you or someone you live with needs mobility assistance and you have more than one floor, a stairlift is a viable option. This project adds an electric chair that transports people up the stairs without having to risk climbing them freely. Just make sure you do your research when choosing a stairlift to avoid common mishaps, like buying secondhand or purchasing the wrong size.
Moving Forward With Accessibility Considerations
These seven projects will help you add accessibility to your home, potentially increasing its value and aesthetic appeal. You, your loved ones, and your guests will be able to enjoy a home that they can navigate freely and without worry. Small considerations like lowering cabinets so guests don’t have to ask for help are monumental. Continue to improve upon your accessibility projects as you see how they work with daily living.